This is one of the earliest examples of the coming convergence of conversational AI and travel booking, even if it is crude in this new launch from ChatGPT.
That ChatGPT was going to become a platform — a la the iPhone with its App Store — was obvious, it was just a matter of time, what we didn’t know was when and how.
We learned on Thursday the first iteration of the vision: plugins. We know plugins from web browser plugins or any of the corporate services such as Zoom, Slack, Salesforce and others. Today that plugin construct came to ChatGPT and helped elaborate on the platform vision for the company and its service that has captured the imagination of the globe.
In the first set of plugins, by companies such as Expedia, Kayak, Instacart, OpenTable, Shopify, Slack, and others, you will notice two large online travel companies represented: Expedia Group and Booking Holdings. The former with its flagship brand Expedia, the latter with two of its secondary brands Kayak and Opentable.
The two travel plugins allow users to engage a ChatGPT chatbot for travel suggestions, but rather than just getting generic suggestions in return — a limit until now with ChatGPT — users can be presented with up-to-date info and links for booking on the respective websites, the first example of convergence of conversational AI tool like ChatGPT and travel booking, a holy grail in the new AI world.
The plugins are only available to certain ChatGPT Plus users at the moment, but more access will be rolled out in the future, as outlined in a blog post on Thursday by OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT.
Watch Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali analyze these new developments in this short social video below:
Expedia and Kayak are among the first companies that have been given plugin access. More will be given access later. In the meantime, others can join the waitlist.
Expedia shared a demo of how the plugin will operate. After users get suggestions, they are referred to Expedia, where they can log in and view personalized options.
Expedia said in an email to Skift that it’s always experimenting with ways different types of AI and machine learning can enhance the travel experience for users. The chief technology officers of Expedia and Booking made similar comments during calls earlier this month.
“Large language models like ChatGPT give travelers another way to start planning a trip and we can help bring that dream trip to life — how to get there by air or car, where to stay that’s available and right for their budget or personal preferences, and what to see and do that fits with a suggested itinerary,” Expedia said in an email.
Connecting plugins to these other companies gives OpenAI, on the other hand, access to more information that it can use to further strengthen and train its technology.
This is a big step toward how generative AI could revolutionize the way users plan and book travel. Efforts so far to use ChatGPT for travel booking have not been very useful.
“By integrating explicit access to external data — such as up-to-date information online, code-based calculations, or custom plugin-retrieved information — language models can strengthen their responses with evidence-based reference,” OpenAI said in the blog post Thursday.
This plugin announcement comes just a couple of days after Google finally released Bard to the public, meaning Bard is now another big step behind its competitor.
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Photo credit: Expedia and Kayak are adding ChatGPT plugins to enhance travel planning and booking. Alejandro Escamilla / Wikimedia Commons